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American journalist Steven Sotloff beheaded by ISIS; Pres. Obama authorizes request for troops

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[van id=”world/2014/09/02/wolf-sot-steven-sotloff.cnn”]

(CNN) — U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday authorized additional troops be deployed to Iraq to protect American diplomatic facilities and personnel in Baghdad.

The 350 troops are being sent at the request of the U.S. Department of State to beef up security, an appeal that comes as the violence mounts as Iraqi security forces battle ISIS fighters and their Sunni militant allies.

“The request he approved today will allow some previously deployed military personnel to depart Iraq, while at the same time providing a more robust, sustainable security force for our personnel and facilities in Baghdad,” according to a statement released by the White House.

The new troops will bring the number of American troops in Iraq to well over 1,000, with most serving either as diplomatic security or military advisers to Iraq’s security forces.

Even as the Pentagon and the White House stressed the new troops were not being sent to Iraq in a combat role, they will be arriving at a critical time.

Iraqi forces, aided by U.S. military airstrikes, have begun to make gains against ISIS, which calls itself the Islamic State.

This announcement comes on the same day news broke that American journalist Steven Sotloff was beheaded by ISIS.

A video that shows the beheading of American Steven Sotloff was delivered as a “second message to America” to halt airstrikes in Iraq, following through on a threat to kill the journalist.

In the video posted Tuesday online, Sotloff says — in a message surely scripted by his captors — that he is “paying the price” for U.S. military intervention.

The intelligence community in the United States is working to confirm the authenticity of the video. But the journalist’s family appeared to believe he had been killed by ISIS, which refers to itself as the Islamic State.

“The family knows of the video and is grieving privately,” family spokesman Barak Barfi said.

The killing of Sotloff follows a threat last month by ISIS made during the videotaped beheading of American journalist James Foley. The latest video threatens the life of another man, who the terror group identifies as David Haines of Britain.

A masked ISIS figure in the new video speaks to U.S. President Barack Obama, telling him, “Just as your missiles continue to strike our people, our knife will continue to strike the necks of your people.”

The Islamic State has thrived and mutated during the civil war in Syria. It swept into Iraq in June, seizing large swaths of the country’s Sunni-dominated northern and western provinces.

Obama ordered targeted airstrikes in Iraq to begin in early August after ISIS fighters began targeting ethnic Yazidis and launching attacks toward the Kurdish regional capital of Irbil.

ISIS appeared to date the execution video of Sotloff, referencing specific U.S. military actions in recent days, including U.S. airstrikes that helped over the weekend to break the siege of Amerli — a northern Iraqi town home to thousands of minority Shiite Turkmen.

Intelligence officials are analyzing the video, trying to answer some key questions, a senior U.S. administration official said.

Among the questions, the official said: When it was shot? Where was it shot? Is the killer in the Sotloff video the same one in the Foley video?

Until they answer those questions, the official said the administration does not want to speculate.

It’s believed ISIS is still holding a “small number” of Americans hostage, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

ISIS: ‘Back off and leave our people alone’

In the new video, the militant threatens the life of Haines, who is shown kneeling with the militant standing behind him.

“We take this opportunity to warn those governments who’ve entered this evil alliance of America against the Islamic State to back off and leave our people alone,” the militant says.

CNN could not immediately confirm who Haines is, or when he was taken captive.

But the Washington Post reported he was an aid worker abducted in March 2013. The newspaper, citing unnamed aid workers involved in efforts to gain his release, said he was abducted near a refugee camp in the northern Syrian province of Idlib.

British Prime Minister David Cameron told reporters he was aware of reports about the video and called Sotloff’s killing “an absolutely disgusting and despicable act.”

Who was Sotloff?

Sotloff disappeared while reporting from Syria in August 2013, but his family kept the news secret, fearing harm to him if they went public. Out of public view, the family and government agencies had been trying to gain his release for the past year.

Last week, Sotloff’s mother, Shirley Sotloff, released a video pleading with ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi not to kill her son.

“Steven is a journalist who traveled to the Middle East to cover the suffering of Muslims at the hands of tyrants. Steven is a loyal and generous son, brother and grandson,” she said. “He is an honorable man and has always tried to help the weak.”

Her plea was met with taunting responses on social media by ISIS supporters.

Sotloff, 31, grew up in South Florida with his mother, father and younger sister. He majored in journalism at the University of Central Florida. His personal Facebook page lists musicians including the Dave Matthews Band, Phish, Miles Davis and movies including “Lawrence of Arabia” and “The Big Lebowski” as favorites. On his Twitter page, he playfully identifies himself as a “stand-up philosopher from Miami.”

He graduated from another college, began taking Arabic classes and subsequently picked up freelance writing work for a number of publications, including Time, Foreign Policy, World Affairs and The Christian Science Monitor. His travels took him to Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey — among other countries — and eventually Syria.

Sotloff contributed to Time magazine, among other publications.

Editor Nancy Gibbs said the magazine’s staff is “shocked and deeply saddened” by the reports of his death.

“He gave his life so readers would have access to information from some of the most dangerous places in the world,” she said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.”

Sotloff brings the number of journalists killed in Syria to at least 70, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

More than 80 have been kidnapped in Syria since the civil war began, with many going unpublicized, the group said.

“We condemn in the strongest terms possible the murder of journalist Steven Sotloff. He, like James Foley, went to Syria to tell a story. They were civilians, not representatives of any government. Their murders are war crimes and those who committed them must be brought to justice swiftly,” CPJ said.

Response from the White House

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the administration “has obviously been watching very carefully since this threat against Mr. Sotloff’s life was originally made a few weeks ago.”

A top U.S. State Department official told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour to “stay tuned” on U.S. plans to combat the organization.

“We are putting the features in place, developing a broad regional coalition, a broad international coalition, working to get a new Iraqi government stood up, working to get our plans in place. So stay tuned,” said Brett McGurk, the deputy U.S. assistant secretary of state for Iraq and Iraq.

Obama, who was briefed on the videotaped execution of Sotloff, came under fire from Republicans and Democrats who called on the President to take stronger against ISIS, also known as ISIL.

The criticism came a week after Obama said, “We don’t have a strategy yet” to deal with ISIS in Syria. Obama said he has asked America’s top defense officials to prepare “a range of options.”

“Mr. President, if you can’t come up with a strategy, at least tell us what the goal is regarding ISIL,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-New Hampshire, said ISIS must be stopped.

“We must use every tool at our disposal, short of introducing ground forces in combat roles, to put an end to the threat they pose to our national security,” she said.

CLICK HERE to read more stories about James Foley on


      • Wow.

        I didn’t vote for him, but, yes, I do feel safe. Because ISIS is about to wake up the American giant. Keep poking us and terrorizing our people. Just keep doing it. Uncle Sam will bring down the hammer on your poor excuse of a life.

        I’m an American, and no amount of Youtube messages are going to scare me. In fact, you may just unite this country more, and then we’ll go hunting for some Mr. James’s.

  • john

    isis was created & trained by the west – where the hell did they come from out the blue – its all to beef up security and take you freedoms away –

    all these recent beheadings look like they were done in a studio on GReen Screen

  • mike

    Yes, Mr J, our President if Barack Obama, and I feel just as safe today as I did last month, or under previous presidents

  • diane

    Tragic….we as a country appear weak..because of the leader. We currently have…we the people despite what our weak obsessed..president says I have no plan to our enemies….is responsible for this death at the hands of our enemies. .also lesson to be learned dont go over to rhe middle east to report ..they do not care!!! And will kidnap you…torture you and chop your heads off..the U.S. should not ever negotiate with terrorists like our president has just recently way to go ….obummer

  • mike

    Diane, I don’t feel that we are weak or even appear weak just because we want to devise an intelligent strategy. We have and continue to hit them with smart strikes which are probably much more bang for the buck than blanketing the area. ISIS are clearly the scared ones, as these acts demonstrate. The U.S. clearly did not negotiate, the evidence of our resolve in that regard has been made clear twice in as many weeks.

  • opinin8d

    @Mike – it is the fact that this is not a new or surprising element (ISIS), and not having a strategy in place yet is what makes the US look weak! It’s always important to devise an intelligent strategy, it just needs to be done pre-emptively. It’s like knowing you’re getting married next year, and then waiting until a week before hand to start planning the details. And this doesn’t even touch on other areas of the world the President is making the US appear weak!

  • Sande

    There is only one solution … Enlist the entire world to help, go into this country in mass ….retrieve the innocent leave the terrorists, isolate the remaining terrorist and eliminate them or cut them off from absolutely everything needed for survival , for as long as that need be


  • Dovie Cabral

    We just need to wipe them off the face of the earth. Is there nay way to do that? No. They cannot continue to get away with this. They (isis)are not human. They all came from hell. And they will all go back. But when???After they are done killing our innocent? This is barbaric

  • Tomazo

    This situation is getting complicated. With this American journalist is already the second. Where is the evolution? Many people are still living in the stone age. Hopefully better days … Congratulations for your comment. Best regards. – from UE

  • Jewels

    So our government waits until countless people are killed BEFORE they begin to think of a “strategy” for dealing with these bottom feeder slugs? Really? Isn’t that why we HAVE a “leader”? Obamie could lead two preschoolers out of a sand box! Yet ANOTHER fail on his and our worthless governments part – didn’t love Bush, but at least he did “something”!

  • Jewels

    So our government waits until countless people are killed BEFORE they begin to think of a “strategy” for dealing with these bottom feeder slugs? Really? Isn’t that why we HAVE a “leader”? Obamie couldn’t lead two preschoolers out of a sand box! Yet ANOTHER fail on his and our worthless governments part – didn’t love Bush, but at least he did “something”!

  • Skyler Lydic

    I’m no history major, or at least not yet but the feeling of nostalgia swept across me when I watched the actual video. Public or which has now become “Viral” assassinations have been known to start wars or conflicts. The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand was one of the main events that led to the beginning of the first world war, and this seems as if it could be the start of something big especially when the white house’s response is; “Their murders are war crimes and those who committed them must be brought to justice swiftly.” America’s “justice” and the word “swiftly” give me anxiety and make me wonder what the rest of the world will think of our retaliation and what that could do for us in the long run as far as starting a war.

  • Terrenc

    there is never going to be a strategy because obummer is a muslim sympathizer, he sees these people has heroic rebels against the occupiers, etc etc…ALL OF YOU NEED TO SEE THIS VIDEO(s) you like me should be pissed off concerning the ISLAM threat issue that looms in the wait, do you think its just coincidence there is so much activity? no its because we ARE so weak and they know it, whats it going to take for us to wake up? muslims killing us here in the US? its coming..

  • diane

    We are appearing weak…we have a non engaged…so called leader of the free world…more important…is a round of golf…how many more beheadings…

  • Yogesh Murgude

    This ISIS and all the terrorists are the creation of America. Sorry to say but this is the truth and truth is always bitter. You must appreciate the current President who is moving away from all the wrong did of previous presidents of USA. Instead many I see blaming him. God bless USA and God bless WORLD.

  • diane

    Really ..yogi…really. real people. Dont cut people’s heads off….only sick. Demented..barbaric…animals….that have no reason to share this world with anyone they deserve to be exterminated from this earth…

  • Tepir

    It’s outrageous that such power hungry people like Americans with all their super military arsenal seem so powerless in the eyes of a knife of a couple of islamic militants. Why can’t American use their collective acumen to figure out how to free a hostage like that. May be Americans are more terrified of labels than what’s really behind them. Americans never direct their attacks on the perpetrator. They can only take it out on innocent people. Looks like that’s what the US solders were busy doing while this was taking place. Wait what Americans are going to do to innocent people after this incident, and all those islamic terrorists will be out there having a nice life remaining absolutely intact. And by the way, since when did Americans start recognizing a Russian Jewish man as an American? Give me a break!!!

  • Demion

    Why can’t both Americans and islamic terrorists just stop everything, go home and worry about their personal lives. It’s so easy, if they could just stop being such emotional idiots.

  • Appel

    This journalist should’ve told the islamic militants that he was Jewish. It might’ve saved his life because there is a lot of Nazi like anti-Jewish sentiment going on in the US. Sometimes hostages can negotiate with terrorists in order to rescue themselves. It is absolutely inhumane for anyone to execute anybody, who’s already been unfairly targeted, persecuted and severely abused. Anyone who experienced American hate and abuse knows what it’s like. It’s worse than a knife being held to your throat. Many people in the US commit suicide as a result of this abuse. They prefer death to domestic American torture. And again, innocent people are getting killed, and scum keeps thriving and never goes anywhere.

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